So you want to be an Actor or Extra in Arizona
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Don't quit your day job!

There are at least 5,000 to 6,000 people in Arizona trying to be actors or extras in Arizona at any one time. They are all trying to for what is no more than 4,000 man days per year (movies, commercials and industrials.) That means that there isn't enough work in the state for everyone looking for this type of work, to work 1 day per year.

Since 80% of the work is probably done by 5% of the people looking. The 5% probably work less than 15 days per year on the average. They are paid less than $60.00 per day most of the time (under $50.00 per day much of the time) and that is for the normal 10 hour day. A handful might work an average of 10 to 12 days a month. Even most SAG actors in Los Angeles don't make a living as an actor, more of them make their living as waiters, than as actors.

That means if you get to be one of the lucky few (the 5%), you could make $62.50 to $100.00 per month ($14.42 to $23.07 per week), on average, and if you are one of the really privileged few (the 1%), you might make between $500.00 and $600.00 per month ($115.38 and $166.15 per week.) This is not to say some people don't get lucky, I know of cases where people have earned over $2,000.00 for a weeks work (in Arizona) and then received residuals bringing the amount to over $4,000.00 for that week of work. But some of those same people don't make $2,000.00 over the next 3 to 5 years combined, as an actor and extra.

Will I get seen?

If your one of the ones lucky enough to get a job, that doesn't mean that you'll ever bee seen on the screen, let alone be recognized. For every day of shooting, less than 3 minutes of film will end up in the finished product. Depending on the type of project, it can be less than 1 minute per day worked. The majority of people hired in state, will work as extras. Most of them will only be seen in the deep background in group shots. Some will actually be out of the camera frame and therefore not even appear on film at all. Much of what is shot is cut and never reaches the final product. This includes the work done by SAG (Screen Actors Guild) actors.

Why do it then?

If you're retired, work for yourself, are unemployed, use your vacation time or fit it in in some other way, there are reasons to do it anyway.

I still want to do it, what do I do?

If after all this, if you still want to try it, there are things that you can do to better your odds.

Do I need an agent?

No, but if you get the right agent it can definitely help. A good agent knows about the projects that are coming to town. You can't find out about all of them on your own. An agents job is to find work for his clients (technically they work for you) and that is how they are supposed to make their money. If you find an agent that will work for you, you will get more auditions and more work, than you could for yourself.

Remember if you have an agent you owe him his fee for all the work you get, even if you found the job yourself. Paying him his fee, whether he got you the job or not, is a good investment. After all, why should he spend time on you, if you're are going around him for work and he is getting nothing for his efforts. If he is getting you auditions, then he is doing his job. It is your job to do well at the auditions, but no one gets work from every audition. In fact it takes an average of 25 audition for each job.

What if your not getting sent to auditions? Then your agent isn't doing his job and you need a new agents. To quit an agent, most agents require, send a letter stating that you are ending your contract by certified mail, 30 days before you change to a new agent.

Do I need classes?

Yes and No. If you want to work as an extra, you do not need acting classes, but you do need to know on set protocol and what to do. If you can find an inexpensive class that gives you that training, it is a definite plus.

If you're new to extra work:

If you want to become an actor, or actress, then you need to know how to act and how to audition. Again classes can give you part of what you need for this, training. But, don't get carried away with training. No one expects a beginning actor to be a polished expert and now one (normally) hires an inexperienced actor for anything other than small parts. As with any investment, you should see a return on your investment, before you invest more money. No amount of acting classes will get you a job; only doing an audition well, will get you the job and that takes practice (experience.)

Which bring us to the other part of what you need, experience. Most projects don't want people that act, they want people that can act natural in the part. But how do you get the experience needed to get your first part?

Do I need composites?

Yes and No. Actors and Actresses need composites, extras only need a good photograph (usually a 5x7 or 8x10). Many an extra has gotten work with a Polaroid taken by the casting director. When you are ready for pictures, shop around for the best price. You can get good photos for composites for around $100.00. Then shop the print shops or photo processing shop for the best price on offset printed or photographic composites. You can even have the done on a computer with a good quality printer.

The most important thing about the photos, is that they show personality. Also having different photo with different looks will help. That way you can submit the photo most appropriate for what the casting director is looking for (IE: business person, cowboy, casual look, sporty look, etc.) If is difficult to get a part as a cowboy or mechanic if you are all dressed up in a suit and tie.

What about a resume?

Everyone should have a good resume, although for some extra castings they don't use them. The resume should list any:

Remember they are looking for people that look natural doing whatever they want them to do and people look more natural at things when they are familiar with them. And they may be looking for anything! Do not exaggerate or lie, it could kill your career or even kill you! You might be surprised at how many people claim they can ride horses and a good many of them have probably never been on a horse.

OK, that's all together, now what?

If you have an agent, check with them before you do anything! You are paying them to promote you, so don't screw them up. If it's OK with them or you don't have an agent:

NOTE: Do not send more that one copy of your composite/photo and resume to any one project and don't submit yourself if your agent already did! Production companies do not want to be in the middle of a fight over who gets the commission for you.

Comments or suggestions about this site are welcome via E-Mail to TLeavey@1ie.com

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